How does the cost stack up over time?
When we talk about storing food, you can effortlessly weave “savings” into the same conversation. My inner geek really took interest when I saw an article like this one at TheSimpleDollar.com.
Is a deep freezer really worth it? In this blog, I want to compare and contrast the cost of dehydrating food and storing it for one week verses freezing it in order to store it for one week.
Pragmatically, thrift is a great reason to store food. If I were to buy Twinkies® on sale (which I would not do, but for this discussion say that I actually did) I would not really worry about taking any measures to preserve them. However, say for instance you got a great deal on something highly perishable like fresh carrots from a farmer’s stand. Would it indeed be great to still have those same fresh carrots six months from then– say in the middle of winter– when you cannot get fresh carrots for that price?
I needed a benchmark to start, so I took a few bags of frozen vegetables as a test subject for both appliances.
A full freezer is an efficient freezer! However, my upright chest freezer does not really scale in measurable cost of running it for a bag or two of vegetables as compared to it being packed full of venison. For our experiment, some wiggle room needs to be factored in for the total operating cost.
I needed a cost for electricity which is typically measured in Kilowatt Hours. As of the time of this blog writing (March 2013), the national average for a Kilowatt Hour of electricity is $0.1227 (up from $0.1127 in December 2011) according to the EIA/Department of Energy.
There are several useful energy calculators on the internet. I happen to really like this one.
Plugging the average cost for March 2013 into the energy calculator, I can then calculate the cost of running just about any appliance.
The calculator comes standard with an upright freezer, auto defrost, 16.5 cubic feet of space. Using this average freezer in the proverbial average household running that freezer for one week we get $4.33 (which is up from $3.96 when I last did this comparison in December 2011):
I am going to use the published data on the back of the Excalibur 9 Tray:
This gives us 600 Watts to plug into the calculator. Since there is not a “Dehydrator” appliance listed, I will simply use six 100 Watt incandescent light bulbs for a period of time 36 hours long (the mean time I usually run my Excalibur Dehydrator):
I wanted to keep this comparison apples-to-apples. We can attempt to factor in things like where is the freezer stored—in the cool basement or exposed to the hot sun on a porch, filled to capacity or empty, how many times is it opened typically during a day, etc. Likewise, the 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator may not be the one that you own (yet), and if you are not running it on the highest heat setting, it will consume much less wattage than 600 Watts. Also is 36 hours too long for your typical dehydrating processes? For us, we like lower heat longer time so that my finished product is dry and crunchy for long term storage. Also keep in mind that this is a one-time electricity charge for that food item, not weekly freezer space rental. In all reality, I believe that this is a fair comparison. If you disagree with that, please leave a comment.
All things considered, simply storing the vegetables in the freezer for a week costs (according to the calculator) $4.33 (up from $3.98 in December 2011). Now, dehydrating the same vegetables for 36 hours costs $2.65 (up from $2.44 in December 2011). Add a 50cc Oxygen Absorber to the jar for an additional cost of $.10 and I can store those same vegetables for months and even years!
Let us take this a step further. Say you got a killer deal on frozen goods. How long could you store them at ~$4 per week before the sale is not so great anymore? Or, let us say you were not even worried about freezer burn, how long until the storage starts costing you more than you paid for the food itself at ~$4 a week rent to store it? Coupon or not, you need to consider that ongoing cost into your food budget calculations.
Taking this one step even further, you have that same $2.65 invested in the dehydrating process holding your on sale items long into the future without any reoccurring costs. This effectively makes your hard won bargains always on sale to you months or even years later.
We love the Excalibur 9 tray Dehydrator in our house—easy to clean, dries the food evenly and it is made in America! Dehydrators are the work-horse of the do-it-yourself long term food storage minded family.
Pro Deo et Patria,
- Food dehydrator, Deep freezer, Pantry Paratus Expo Shelf, Excalibur dehydrator data plate by Pantry Paratus
- Dehydrator cost comparison, Deep freezer cost comparison taken from http://www.csgnetwork.com/elecenergycalcs.html
- US Residential Electricity Price taken from EIA DoE http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/report/prices.cfm
Nothing in this blog constitutes medical advice. You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes. Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.